WANT TO MAKE a political point in California — and across the country? Try running ads in Florida.

That’s the tack the oil and gas industry is taking following Gov. Gavin Newsom’s much-discussed decision in July to air campaign ads in the Sunshine State accusing Republican leaders of restricting abortion access, voting rights and free speech.

On July 24, the Western States Petroleum Association unveiled Florida ads of its own questioning the practicality of Newsom’s climate policies, including his ban on the sale of new gas-powered cars by 2035 and his administration’s sweeping strategy to phase out fossil fuels and put a stop to new oil fracking.

“Our governor, Gavin Newsom, attacks Florida,” a woman’s voice solemnly intones. “But here’s what he’s doing to us in California. We pay $1.65 more for a gallon of gas than you do. Our electricity rates are twice as high as yours. … California can’t afford Gavin Newsom’s ambition. Can Florida?”

Kevin Slagle, vice president of strategic communications for the Western States Petroleum Association, told me it spent “a little more than $100,000” to run ads for two weeks on Miami TV stations and to place periodic full-page ads in the Miami Herald. (Incidentally, that’s about the same amount Newsom spent on his own ads.)

  • Slagle: “The number one thing with why we’re in Florida is because we’re trying to get the governor’s attention. And the governor is focused in Florida and Texas and other states right now. … But, here in California, there’s real critical issues. These energy policies, these bans and mandates, the things that are being debated right now … make a real difference to Californians on a day-to-day basis. … We want the governor to engage … and really focus on the cost and the impacts, and not just give lip service and political slogans.”
  • Slagle added: “I think what we’re hoping for here is that we’ll get him focused on … trying to find some sort of partnership to move forward on climate and energy policy. I mean, he’s really good at demonizing us. What we’d like to see him do is work harder to work with us because we’re the folks who can do hard things to help us get there.”
  • Nathan Click, a spokesperson for Newsom’s reelection campaign, told me in a statement: “Being attacked by the world’s nastiest polluters is a badge of honor for Governor Newsom. These dirty companies are raking in massive profits while causing the deaths of countless Americans — from extreme heat, drought, fires and choked lungs. They are attacking Governor Newsom because no governor has done more to break American’s addiction to fossil fuel. As Floridians face historic sea level rise and catastrophic climate change fueled hurricanes, California leads the world in combatting this existential threat to our future.”

But airing ads in Florida isn’t the only quirk of California campaigns. Due in part to the structure of the Golden State’s top-two primary election system, it’s fairly easy for write-in candidates — even those with very little support — to snag the second spot on the November general election ballot in races with only one other contender, CalMatters’ Sameea Kamal reports.

Indeed, state Assembly and state Senate candidates needed as few as 40 people to sign nomination papers to qualify as write-in candidates for the June 7 primary. And no matter how few votes they won, as long as they finished in second place, they advanced to the November election.

Hence the uneven matchup in a conservative Assembly district encompassing the Central Valley and parts of the Sierra Nevada: Libertarian write-in candidate Thomas Edward Nichols, who received just 15 votes in the primary, will face off in November against GOP incumbent Jim Patterson, who received more than 90,000 votes.

  • NicholsThe write-in process allows voters to think “outside of the duopoly that dominates our political culture. … I really appreciate the fact that an engineer up here in the foothills could wind up on the ballot going after an incumbent. I’m satisfied with the democratic process in that respect.”

This story originally appeared in CalMatters.